The fuse had been lit on Patrice Evra’s top level career for several months now, yet eventually a spark reached the powder keg on Thursday evening prior to Marseille’s Europa League clash with Vitoria Guimaraes.
Before the match began, the 36-year-old left-back was apparently insulted from the sidelines by a supporter, leading to former Manchester United and Juventus man to launch a kick into the face of the fan. Former France boss Raymond Domenech described the action as a “suicide” to L’Equipe TV .
It was a moment that echoed the actions of a certain Eric Cantona, who infamously fly kicked a Crystal Palace fan in January 1995.
#VSCOM un truc de fou s'est passé entre des supporters semble-t-il Marseillais et des joueurs dont Evra ! Ça a tapé ! @OM_Officiel #TeamOM pic.twitter.com/C9Cozns6X4 — Karim Attab (@karimattab1) November 2, 2017
While the mercurial forward had time to redeem his reputation, Evra, who has won five Premier Leagues and one Champions League, not to mention 81 international caps, does not have such a luxury.
“He knows it’s over and he will not play anymore,” Domenech, who coached the Paris-born full-back with France, added.
For all of the player’s over-the-top ‘I love this game’ image on Instagram, on the field he has cut a very different figure. He has only started four Ligue 1 matches this season, having been usurped by Jordan Amavi, yet in these encounters he has not looked a player cut out for top-level football.
The way he was torn to pieces by Rennes in August was the final straw for head coach Rudi Garcia, who thereafter has largely relegated him to the Europa League team.
On Sunday, he was given another opportunity against struggling Lille but again proved his team’s weakest link and was fortunate not to see red in the first half when he made a frustrated tackle when already on a caution. It was an obvious second yellow card and he was lucky the referee made a poor call.
The frustration he displayed in Lille, where he was eventually replaced before he was sent off, manifested itself on Thursday evening in the ugliest of manners. Having narrowly avoided a dismissal at the weekend, he was instead faced with the ignominy of being the first player to ever be sent off in a Europa League fixture before it had even started.
“Patrice is a very experienced player and obviously he can’t react,” Garcia told BeIn Sport after OM had slumped to a 1-0 defeat in Portugal. “But this wasn’t a Marseille supporter, because a supporter gets behind everyone.”
While the coach then went on to consider the ramifications of being two players short for their next Europa League match – Boubacar Kamara was dismissed during the fixture – the reality is that Evra is unlikely to wear the colours of OM again.
Marseille fans are perhaps the most passionate in France’s top flight and Stade Velodrome is a notoriously unforgiving venue for players perceived not to be pulling their weight. Joey Barton’s combative style, for example, was revered in the south of France, yet Evra’s Instagram antics have not been received in the light-hearted style that has made him a favourite with the neutrals.
Laurent Bonnart, a full-back who won Ligue 1 with OM in 2010, spoke for the club’s fans when he said of Evra to SFP Sport : “He would be better to keep quiet and work.
“Despite the titles he has won, he has to show humility on every level and I think that he’s lacking that. It hurts his club more than anything else.
“Why share these videos? It simply shows an oversized ego in a period when OM need to work and it’s not a good image for an experienced guy to give to the young players.”
Criticism of his displays has been universally scathing, with Christophe Dugarry, another former Marseille player, slamming his displays.
“Pat, congratulations on your career, for all you have done… But man, stop. Stop. Stop. He’s hiding, he’s pretending, he can’t run anymore,” he told SFR Sport .
Evra can’t hide any more, though. His weakness has been made apparent for all to see, and it is sad that for a player who was once one of the best in the world that potentially his last kick on a football field was aimed towards a supporter rather than a ball.